Experiment objective

To be an ethnobotanist by discovering a new kind of food in your own home town.

Read more background about this activity in Memory Elvin-Lewis's bio...

You need

  • An ethnic grocery store.
  • A notepad.

Visit an ethnic grocery store. Chinese, Philipino, East Indian, or West Indian ones are good places to try. Look around until you find an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable, or a package containing something that you've never eaten before. Ask someone in the store where the fruit, vegetable or food product comes from and find out how to prepare it. If the first person you ask is too shy or can't speak your language, ask someone else. Keep asking until you find someone who wants to help. You will likely find that people are more than willing to help you if you show a genuine interest in their culture and food.

Remember to watch the facial expressions of the people you talk to. The Lewises have found over and over again that a slight grin or twinkle in the eyes means there’s more to the story. It’s important to ask more questions when you see something like this or else you might miss an important step in the food’s preparation. Ask where does the vegetable grow? How is it used? Keep asking questions and take notes as the person answers your questions. Make sure you write everything down.

Foods we take for granted today such as corn, potatoes and tomatoes were all "discovered" in just this way. We depend on people from different cultures around the world because the knowledge they have about preparing foods and medicines enriches our lives at home every day.